Following a rapid rise in coronavirus infections, on 4th January Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown, instructing people to stay at home. This has meant there are, once again, changes to the COVID-19 wedding restrictions and rules.
As a result of the latest lockdowns, wedding receptions cannot take place anywhere in the UK.
Although wedding ceremonies can still go ahead, the rules are much stricter than when the COVID-19 tier/level systems were in place.
In this Guide
In England the government now advises that wedding and civil partnership ceremonies should only take place in exceptional circumstances. An example given of ‘exceptional circumstances’ is if one of the couple is seriously ill and not expected to recover. Ceremonies can only take place in a COVID-19 secure venue or in a public outdoor space, with a maximum of six people in attendance (this figure excludes anyone working at the venue). This is a change to the previous Tier restrictions where, depending on the tier, up to 15 people could attend.
The government also advises that the ceremony should take place locally (your village/town/city) where possible, and people should avoid travelling outside of their local area. However, someone may travel outside of their local area to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony “if they absolutely need to”. The ceremony would though need to be taking place due to exceptional circumstances and be following the attendance guidelines.
Since the level 4 national lockdown on 5th January, Scotland has also seen much stricter COVID-19 wedding restrictions put in place. The pre-lockdown Level 4 rule allowing up to 20 people attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony has now reduced to just five, and it should also be noted that the venue capacity must allow for 2m social distancing between attendees. The limit of five, which includes the couple, witnesses and officiant, is increased to six if an interpreter is required.
These limits apply for all ceremonies, regardless of where they are taking place. Although ceremonies can take place inside a private dwelling the Scottish government advises this should only happen when it is not possible for it to take place outside or in a public venue.
When it comes to travel, Level 4 restrictions stipulate that you may only leave you home to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony if you are one of the couple, a witness, celebrant or registrar, or an interpreter.
All of Wales is currently in Alert level 4 lockdown. Wedding and civil partnership ceremonies must take place indoors and in approved venues. Under the current COVID-19 wedding restrictions the venue’s capacity when allowing for two metre social distancing measures between households determines the number of people allowed to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony. The maximum number allowed includes the celebrant, registration officials, the couple and their witnesses.
Travel is restricted to those party to the wedding or civil partnership, those invited to the ceremony, and any carers of those attending. People travelling from the same household should travel together and should not travel with others from different households.
In Northern Ireland, although up to 25 people may attend a wedding ceremony, any event with more than 15 people requires a risk assessment. Although the government states that you must not leave or be outside your home, except where necessary, you may leave your home to attend a wedding or civil partnership ceremony.
Staying Safe During a Wedding Ceremony
As well as the rules on attendee numbers and travel there are extra guidelines the government has given to help people reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus when attending a wedding ceremony.
The social distancing guidelines of 2 metres (or 1 metre where 2 metres is not possible) between households still apply at wedding ceremonies in England. In Scotland and Wales the venue must allow for 2m social distancing between households. These restrictions do of course mean that sadly attendees won’t be able to hug or kiss loved ones outside of their household.
All attendees, including the couple, guests and venue staff, must wear a face covering in line with government COVID-19 guidance and legislation. The NHS advises that when indoors you should wear a face covering at all times when around anyone who is not in your social bubble.
Unless exempt, guests must wear a face covering at all times during a wedding or civil partnership ceremony. In England the officiant and the couple should also wear face coverings, although the couple can remove theirs during their vows (unless requested not to by the officiant) and for ‘the kiss’.
The Welsh government advises that those leading a ceremony do not need to wear a face covering if it is impractical to do so. However, they should consider ways to ensure they can provide a barrier to transmission such as distancing, screens, visors and extra hygiene measures. The couple do not need to wear a face covering during the walk down the aisle, the vows, the first kiss and photos taken indoors.
Since 16th October 2020, in Scotland the couple do not need to wear a face covering during the ceremony as long as they are at least two metres away from everyone else or separated by a partition.
The Church of England advises that during church weddings the bride and groom and those officiating do not have to wear face masks.
As COVID-19 spreads through small droplets and aerosols, singing, playing some musical instruments and shouting increases the risk of transmission. The government therefore advises that communal singing should not take place at a wedding or civil partnership ceremony, even with social distancing observed or face coverings worn.
Singing or chanting essential to the solemnisation of a marriage or civil partnership ceremony should be restricted to one person where possible, with up to three individuals when essential. If recordings are available the COVID-19 wedding guidelines suggest these are used as an alternative to live singing.
Shouting and playing instruments you blow into should also be avoided, and recorded music should not be played at a volume that may result in raised voices or shouting.